Tag: Ghanaian Culture


Child-naming and its Impact on the Ghanaian Child

Babies born in Ghana come with one permanent name depending on which day in the week the baby is born. Ashantis may decide to skip their child’s day name and choose a different day name. This often happens when they name the child after a special person, a hero/heroine, a friend or a business partner. They often adapt the full names of that person. A parent who lived in Kumasi named his child after the first president of Ghana. The child was born on Tuesday but he was named Kwame Nkrumah, instead of Kwabena Nkrumah. This tradition or practice is common among the Ashantis in Ghana.

The other names given to the babies reflect the parent’s beliefs, wishes or preferences. The baby has no say in this matter. However, when the child grows up, she can decide to cast away the name the parents give her and choose her own.

05fbd6d427a1dcb5facaa365a558cc33There are several ways of giving a surname to babies. The most common one is for the father to give his surname to the baby. As said earlier on, the father can also name the baby after a hero/heroine, a special friend, or business partner.

Most names given to babies have some meaning. Nobody chooses a name that means nothing or has no significance. Sometimes names are given by fetish priests to parents who consult them to solve their child-birth issues. When their issues are solved, the fetish priest gives the child a name. This article will partly be discussing the effect of such names on the bearers.

Some people think or believe that certain names, by their definitions, carry with them bad luck and, very often, curses. Things may not go well for those who bear such names. However, it is not wholly true that all those who bear such names encounter bad luck.

I had a discussion with an elderly man when I visited Ghana last year. The man took his time to explain to me that there is no curse in the names per se but in most families, bad and destructive spirits, including witches and wizards, capitalize on the meanings of the names to shape the child’s destiny and to bring hopelessness, hardship and destruction on the child at the very incipient stage till the child reaches adulthood.  He further explained that not all Akan names can be brought under curse.

Some names given to babies by the Akans have obvious meanings. Berko is translated as a

fetish priest

fetish priest

person whose life is full of hustle and bustle, Abebrese (a sufferer), Bediito (a glutton whose preference is mashed plantain), Kokooto (mashed plantain in red palm oil), Bosompem (thousand gods), Asuo (a gift from the river god), Nkwantabisa (ask at the junction), Bediako (a fighter and a hustler), Diawuo (a murderer).

Names with funny meanings do not exist only in the Akan culture. The Anlos have names which sound humorous, interesting and thought-provoking. Ex-president J.J Rawlings named his first daughter Zanetor. It is said that this child was born while Rawlings was in jail awaiting trial for treason. The name means, “let the darkness stop.” The birth of the girl expressed Rawlings’ wish for the dark days to stop, and it stopped too (at least for Rawlings). Indeed, many Anlo names are full meaningful sentences. Mawuenyega means God is great, Kugblenu (death destroys things), Delanyo (the Saviour is good), Mawunyo (God is good), Dzigbodi (Patience), Edem (the Lord has saved me), and Delali (the Saviour is there).

Interestingly, there are some terrific Ewe names whose meanings, for the sake of decorum, I will not provide here. (You may ask your Ewe friends to tell you…) What will you say about names like Avugla, Amemornu, Fiadigbor, Avudzivi, Agbetsiame, Datsomor, Avagah, Kumasenu, Gamor, Degodia, Gbormitan, Avadzi, Gbortsu, Agbogah, Gasor or even Woyome? Every ethnic group has such names but my digging around the subject revealed to me that the Ewes may lead this league of “special” names. Some of these names may have started as nicknames, names by which the bearer boasts of some personal prowess or “drinking names” taken at the nsafufuo grove or ogogoro bar but which gradually become bona fide names that are passed on to offspring.

In an epic song, Highlife Maestro, P S K Ampadu, described the disastrous effect of how one day-names-colorname brought untold hardships on the bearer. The person in the song was called Yaw Berko. Berko means a person who came into this world to fight it out or struggle in life. In the song Yaw Berko was hit hard by the uncompromising arms of life. Penniless at forty, he tried to find jobs in almost all the regions of Ghana to no avail. Yaw Berko’s destiny was a sad one.

Bosompem, Bonsam, Asuo and Brekune are all names that are easily manipulated by the spirits to implant in the bearers of such names elements of fetishism. Most of the time, a child with such a name is donated by a river god. Brekune is the name of a fetish god. All these names affect the destinies of these individuals.

Ghanaians are now careful in choosing names for their children. They choose names that inspire, bless, and motivate. The common ones among the Akans are Nhyira (Blessing), Obrempong (a mighty royal), Adom (Grace), Oheneneba (Prince), Ohemaa (Queen), and many more. The Ewes and the Gas also use motivating and inspiring names like Born-great, Prosper, Fafa (Peace), Destiny and many more.

All what Ghanaians need to do is to wise up. We must all commit ourselves to constant prayers and to make the fear of the Lord a top priority. If God intervenes, no matter what name you give to your child, no bad spirit or witchcraft can turn a name to curse the bearer.

By Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads
Email: stephen.owusu@email.com

New African Dance School launches children and adult classes in London

Adinkra Dance School (ADS), will be launching African dance classes for children and adults, this February 2016. Children and adults will be taught traditional dancing using the schools MAT strategy, which consists of Modern, Afrobeats dance and Traditional African dance techniques.

 

ADS Flyer (1)ADS is the brain child of Cilla Gyewu, Felix Lartey Cheetham and Mavis Osei. They spotted an opportunity to teach dances that they grew up learning and knowing.

Felix said “Our dance classes will be exceptional because of the mixes of dances from different parts of Africa from Traditional to Modern.”

The name Adinkra comes from the Akan language, of the Ashanti tribe of Ghana, West Africa and represents visual symbols that represent concepts or aphorisms.

Cilla and Mavis said “We are all of Ghanaian/African heritage, and really wanted to share some of the rich African culture off to both children and adults, dancing seemed like the best way to do that, seeing as we all love to dance one way or the other”.

ADS dance classes not only tap into cultural identity but also provides many health benefits. Dancing improves our body by strengthening it, making the body more flexible, giving great posture and balance. Dancing also keeps a child’s body and brains active, extremely vital for growing children.

Students will work individually and in pairs/groups and learn different traditional dance routines, mastering a routine before moving onto the next. Children will also have the opportunity to showcase their dance routines that they have learnt throughout the term. For more details or to book contact adschooluk@gmail.com 07704 347 045 or 07596 021776

 

Class details:

North London

Every Saturday commencing 20th February 2016

Location:  Woodhouse College Dance Studio, Woodhouse Road, Finchley N12 9EY.

Time: 2-3pm

 

West London

Every Friday from 19th February 2016

Location:  Oak Tree Community Centre, Osborne Road, Acton, W3 8SJ.

Time: 4-5pm.

Both classes are £6 or 10 sessions for £50. Email adschooluk@gmail.com or call 07704 347 045 or 07596 021776 for an application form

UK Blog Awards 2016 – please vote for Me Firi Ghana Blog!

The Me Firi Ghana Blog is up for the Lifestyle and Most Innovative Award in the UK Blog Awards 2016, and we need your help to win!

In 2014 , we were the only representative of Ghanaian culture at the awards ceremony. In fact we were the only representative of African culture to make the final shortlist of 28 from 900 plus blogs who entered the competition and were amongst the top 10 blogs in the Arts and Culture category and the and amongst the top 3 most innovative blogs in the UK.

Last year we again made the finals in the same two categories. So will be 2016 be third time lucky??

The Me Firi Ghana Media Blog is constantly pushing boundaries, striving to bring you content that educates, entertains, inspires and most importantly connect our readers to the vibrant culture and history that is Ghana. Our fantastic team have writers have written some truly amazing articles in 2015, and we hope to do even better in 2016!

The public vote for the awards is underway from now to 25th January 2016 and it is our hope that with your help we will be able to pick up an award this year. As we’ve entered two categories you can use the drop down menu at the bottom of the page to select any of the 3 categories.

CX1YmlgWEAAVVfg

You can vote for us by clicking on the following link:

http://blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2016/my-entry/mfg-media-blog


Lets go!

The Wives We Leave in Ghana, Na Wow!

couple getting divorcedGhanaians abroad are often confronted with diverse problems. Chief among these are their inability to procure resident permits or jobs which would enable them to bring their wives from Ghana to join them. There are some men who also fear that when they bring their wives abroad, these women will learn the ways of the “white woman” and abandon them. Whatever the reasons, not all the women left behind can hold out until their husbands come home, sometimes after several years. It is easy to fall into temptation. Some of these may result in pregnancies which are given to unsuspecting husbands who return home and sleep with them. Indeed many men are fathering children that are not theirs. These, among other things, are what the article is going to talk about. I will also talk about my own personal experience.

 

Joshua lived in Kumasi with his wife, Esther. They both had a child each from former relationships. Joshua, a hardworking tailor, took both children as his own and cared for them. He lived in a single room with wife and both children.

Joshua had a very good friend from childhood who helped him to secure a UK visa when he added his name to a business delegation visiting London.

Joshua overstayed his three-month visa, worked hard at several menial jobs and saved enough to “buy” a residence and work permit by marrying a Ghanaian lady with a UK passport. It cost him £12,000!!!

He called his wife and told her of the good news and promised her that she would soon join him in London. Since he had saved enough money he decided to have his own house in Ghana. She sent money to the wife to buy a double plot. An architectural design of twin buildings was drawn for him and he sent it to his wife. Work was finished on the project within two years.

 

Strangely enough Esther called Joshua and told him that she was no longer interested in the marriage because she had waited for so long. She added that if he got anyone in London he could go ahead and marry her. Joshua then ordered her to leave his house. But the woman told him that he did not have any house in Ghana.

He rushed to Ghana for the first time after living in London for seven years. The first thing he did on his arrival in Ghana was to consult a lawyer. He explained the whole problem to the lawyer. The lawyer explained to him that if he could prove by receipts and documents that he, indeed, sent all the money for the buildings the court would revoke her ownership of the houses and give them to him. But Joshua had no such documentary proof of the remittances he had made. The lawyer advised him to go and plead with the lady to give him one of the houses.

 

He took the lawyer’s advice, went home and selected three elderly members of his family and an old friend. They went to meet Grounds-of-divorce12Esther and her family members. No matter what Joshua and his people said Esther refused to give any house to Joshua.

They rose up to go. Esther and her people followed them and hooted at them. Joshua’s friend who accompanied him hurled his elbow swiftly behind. His elbow landed accidentally on the left jaw of Esther’s mother. She fell flat on her back and died on the spot. They ran to board the car but Joshua knelt before the dead woman and asked an onlooker to find him a taxi. The police arrived and arrested Joshua. To cut a long story short he was given a seven years sentence and imprisonment for bringing in the man who caused the death of the woman. As I write, he has already spent four years in jail.

 

What Joshua went through is very similar to what I am going through right now. I married a Ghanaian woman in 2003 after circumstances purely beyond my control led to a divorce between me and my Finnish wife with whom I have four children. When I came back to Ghana I met a lady who was introduced to me by a close friend. I married her but not long after her real intention for getting married to me began to come out. I lived abroad and I had a school in Kumasi. I placed my wife in charge of the kitchen. For most of the time, she extended her authority beyond the kitchen, stepping on the toes of teachers, head-teachers and even the board, anytime I travelled. It was my intention to bring her to join me in Europe. I returned to Ghana a year later. The head-teacher complained that my wife showed no respect to both parents and teachers. She was even insolent to members of the school board. The school suffered because of her attitude. Many parents withdrew their children. They could not take the insults from my wife.

 

I used part of the proceeds to buy a house and another plot. It was my intention to give the house to my four children and build another house for my wife. I could not complete the transfer of ownership forms with the landlord when it was time for me to go back to Europe. I gave my passport-size pictures to the landlord and asked him to complete the forms and I would append my signature when I returned from Europe. He did so and left them with a close friend of mine. I told my wife to collect the forms and keep them until I come.

 

I returned to Ghana to discover to my utmost surprise that my wife had changed the documents of the house into her name. She sold my cars; a MB van and a Nissan Pathfinder.

104370352_divorce_282607cShe sold the plot too and collapsed the business I opened for her. She got back the GHC8000 goodwill I paid for the shop space by giving the shop to another businesswoman. With all these monies in hand she was able to bribe her way through the Lands Department and succeeded in transferring my landed property into her name. She then finalized the deal with a lease-hold from the office of the Ashanti Stool Land Registry. This was how she decided to bring to an end all the achievements I made for the past three and a half decades spent living abroad.

 

Many well-wishers and sympathisers have suggested several ways of dealing with this woman. Some said I should divorce her. Others also said I should end her life by any means necessary. But I am a Christian. There is this group which also suggests that I choose the legal option to retrieve my property.

You as a reader may also have other suggestions. What do you say?

By  Stephen Atta Owusu

Article taken from here

Testing boundaries: an interview with Gold Coast film co-producer Kwame Boadi

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ghanaian TV director Kwame Boadi of inGenius Africa about his move into feature film production. Many of you may know him for such TV series as Sunshine Avenue, Abiba, and Sun City.

Well, he has recently co-produced an arthouse film set in Ghana called Gold Coast that looks at Denmark’s presence in Ghana during the 1830s.

The 2015 arthouse film was written and directed by Daniel Dencik and is a depiction of 19th century life three years after the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was officially but not totally banned in 1833. Slavery was finally abolished in Danish colonies in 1848, according details from the BBC.

The film arrived in London on 11 October and was screened at local cinemas for a week. Some of you will have read my assessment of the film in my previous blog ‘Gold Coast: A lucid look at Denmark’s colonial past’.

I caught up with Boadi to dig a bit deeper into how and why he got involved in the film; when the film will be coming to the African continent and exploring his views on slavery. Enjoy!

 

MisBeee: How has the film been received so far?

Kwame Boadi: It has been very well received. Everyone is saying it is very heavy but you cannot treat a slave story lightly. We hope we can find a sales agent so we can release it in the UK.

MB: Can you tell me why it was important for you to be part of this film?

KB: I was drawn mainly to the fact that for lots of Danes in Denmark, their history of the slave trade is not that well known. So for me, that was a good point because it meant the film would help educate them the better.

And then when I saw the script, it had lots of redeeming values. Very interesting characters such as the missionary’s wife, and the central character Wulff as well. And it was my first feature, so I thought it would be a good learning experience for me.

MB: So how did documentary and film director Daniel Dencik and the team find you?

KB: So the Danish guys behind the film had not come to Africa before so they started looking around in Denmark for Ghanaian contacts. Fortunately for us, the Ghanaian connection they found happened to be my business partner’s roommate in Germany.

My business partner – Oliver Safo – is half German and half Ghanaian and lived for a time in Germany. His roommate, when he was in Germany, was a Danish guy who is also in the industry – a sound engineer. So, Gold Coast producer Michael Haslund and the rest of the team came across this guy and thought it would work. They called us and we took it from there.

MB: The film is powerful and the scenery is amazing. I have been to Cape Coast and Elmina castles before but it looks as though this film was shot in different locations.

KB: Elmina was the central location – we spent about three and a half to four weeks over there. We had wanted to use the Osu Castle [the Danish fort also known as Christiansborg] because of course it used to be the centre of government. [Fort Christiansborg was built by the Danes and Norwegians in the 1660s]. But it has been modernised and lost a lot of the historical aspects.

FullSizeRender(1)

One of the sites for the film ©Michael Haslund

Instead, we used Elmina. Although Elmina is a Dutch castle, we adapted it and the Danes brought us some Danish motifs to decorate it.

We spent a bit of time at the Cape Coast Castle, Fort Amsterdam in Abandze, Central Region and Fort Batenstein in Butri in the Western Region.

All the greenery and the beaches were in the Western region in the Beyin area. We spent two weeks there and we filmed a very small part of the film in Burkina Faso [north of Ghana and neighbouring Cote ‘d’Ivoire, Togo and Benin, Niger and Mali].

MB: So in total, how long did it take to film the entire production?

KB: The shooting time was three and a half months but of course we spent about two years from the moment that Michael and the team got in touch to when we finished shooting.

MB: Did you need background historical knowledge before starting the film or had your Ghanaian education meant you were well-versed in the country’s slave history?

Yes, we needed to do some research but fortunately there is a Wulff family living in Osu on the route to Osu Castle who are descendants of Wulff Frederik Wulff. So, during the research period, we spent some time with the family conducting test shoots and that helped to fill some of the gaps.

The Danes had conducted their own research and so had Jakob Oftebro, who plays Wulff. He also met the family. The rest of the team spoke with the family and even had more information than the family that they were able to share.

MB: There is this voicelessness that pervades the film. What was the decision-making behind that?

KB: That’s Daniel’s style – you know the director calls the shots. He thought that it would be more poignant if lots of parts of the film were voiceless. So what you find is that some parts are sometimes driven by voice-overs or by the score, allowing the pictures to speak for themselves. And I thought it was fine.

MB: So was Lumpa the slave boy -actually mute because I had read articles saying that he was.

KB: No he was not mute but that is an interesting story …….

At all the villages we shot at, it was smart to use locals to create business but also to cut down our own costs, so we went round to do castings. We went to this village Alabokazo – it is off the Beyin area also in the Western region – and were conducting some auditions there. But there were these four young boys playing soccer close by who were making a lot of noise.

 

John Aggrey aka Lumpa ©Michael Haslund

John Aggrey aka Lumpa ©Michael Haslund

One of them was asking questions and he was kind of interrupting our auditions. So I turned to one of the camera guys and said: ‘Go and tell these boys we will take some shots of them – so they can go away, and assure them we will add them to it.’

We weren’t going to add it to anything because at that time, they were not in frame. You see, earlier in the script Lumpa was supposed to be 18-19 years old and I was actually planning to cast Ghanaian TV star Lil’ Wayne.

For me in terms of the commercial viability of the project in Ghana that would have been splendid.  But Daniel said he wanted a younger boy on set someone who was 10 or 12 years. We had a long argument over that because that was not going to work too well for me. But the director calls the shots and in the creative areas, you have to follow their lead.

So, we had to start looking for 12-year-old boys. We had not captured any because we had not been looking for them but as we were going through our pictures, lo and behold we found these four boys that we had just taken randomly. These pictures were suggested as possible candidates for the part and John Aggrey – one of the four – was picked and became the star in the end.

MB: And he’s never acted before, has he?

KB: Never ever. He did so well so we have actually decided that we are going to fund his education to university. We have put him in a boarding school and he’s in class six now. We will take him through, if he is able to do well, he will go on to university and we will take it from there.

MB: So when can Ghanaians and other Africans on the Continent see the film?

KB: We own the film rights for half of Africa and the whole of Ghana so that is where my concentration is. Earlier we were looking to premiere in Ghana in December 2015, but looking at the schedule I would rather take it to Easter – March/April 2016, there about. I would have finished the second season of Sunshine [Avenue] and would have more time to organise and make a bit more noise. So it will premiere in Ghana, then I am looking to find a distributor for Africa.

MB: Is South Africa among the countries interested?

KB: Nigeria is interested and I know that South Africa would be.

I am looking to shorten the film as well. We in Africa are used to the American-style movies that move very fast. Gold Coast is an arthouse movie that drags a bit and I think that people would get tired of it. So I am thinking of bringing it to 90 minutes. I am still talking to Michael and the rest of the team, that is why I am waiting for them to finish the European tour first otherwise we will have two films coming out in circulation at the same point.

Once it has finished the European rounds (sometime early next year) then we can think about reducing it to 90 minutes. Then it will be pacier, a bit faster and we will indigenise it a bit more for our market by adding some more African pictures and sounds.

 

MB: I was one of a few black women in the audience on the opening night in London, and it wasn’t comfortable to see that degree and prolonged bouts of female nudity in the film.

KB: No, no you are right. You are dead right. I am sure if I were sitting in the audience, I would have been uncomfortable too. But for me, I believe in the shock and awe tactic too.

 

Female extra shot in the castle walls  ©Michael Haslund

Female extra shot in the castle walls ©Michael Haslund

In today’s times, we still have slavery everywhere. In Ghana’s Volta region you have these very small boys who are picked up and sold for a pittance in the Western and Central regions to go and work as divers for fishermen. So I have a different view about slavery. We [Africans] tend to say that we have not done anything wrong.

MB: I appreciate that slavery still exists today and I know we played our part but I think that marrying what happened then and what is happening now diminishes the brevity of the Trans-Atlantic trade, which many modern-day countries are built on. And I think it gives racists license to defend what happened then by saying slavery is happening now. 

KB: Not necessarily, I disagree with you a bit on the human trafficking issue. It is not only blacks who are trafficked now. We have eastern Europeans that are being trafficked in containers – right? So I don’t know about it being a race issue. It is white on white, white on black, black on white, black on black. I tend to have a different view on that. If you are racist you are racist, if you are not well read you will pick anything to justify, something that is not justifiable.

And you must look at it in terms of a work of art. At that time, there was that school of thought that blacks were sub-human, and that is what Daniel wanted to show. And that is one of the reasons he made the black characters voiceless because that’s one of the aspects that will shock you.

I used to be a teacher, I taught for five years at Achimota School in Ghana, and one thing I learnt was that you can teach by positive example or by negative example. When this film was premiered in Copenhagen, some of the people were so distraught, especially the older ones. They came up to us and asked: ‘So do you hate us?’

Those with a good heart who didn’t know of Denmark’s participation in the trade and saw the brutality of it were completely traumatised. And I suspect it will make them better people going forward. They will tend to be nicer to black people when they meet them and that is fine by me.

MB: There seemed to be some symbolism attached to the use of white and dark clothing in the film. The Danish were often depicted in white as were the ‘native’ that had been converted to Christianity, while the rest wore darker or black garments. (check out my critique here). Was that intentional?

Jakob Oftebro and Ghanaian extras ©Michael Haslund

Jakob Oftebro and Ghanaian extras ©Michael Haslund

 KB: The blacks you saw and the change in Lumpa’s dressing was towards the end of the film. That was a funeral scene at the village. But apart from that the blacks you saw in the village were wearing calico and those were what they used to wear earlier and those weren’t necessarily black. So, I didn’t see that connection that you are referring to and I don’t think that was conscious. But it gives me food for thought.

By Kirsty Osei-Bempong (@MisBeee)

Kirsty Osei-Bempong is a journalist and blogger. She share news about Ghanaian arts, cultures and history on her blog site MisBeee Writes.

Ghana Society UK presents…Kente Festival & Dinner Dance 2015

The Ghana Society UK  is holding its annual  Kente Festival & Dinner Dance this Saturday, 7th November 2015 in London.

This year’s special edition will be the grand finale of their programs towards an unforgettable Black History Season themed ‘Akwaaba to Ghana’, to promote our motherland’s rich cultural heritage and the symbolic Kente cloth. The event will be held at the Porchester Hall, Westbourne Park Road, Bayswater-London, W2 5HS from 7pm to 1am.

Their health initiatives on Breast, Cervical & Prostate Cancer challenges in Ghana will be highlighted during the event as they create awareness and also fundraise towards eradicating the myths surrounding these health problems, as well as championing traditional values that are being forgotten which are integral to our uniqueness as Ghanaians.

The highlight of the evening will include a fashion show, cultural displays, kente giveway and exclusive live performances, including the fantastic Davidson Band, lined up to add a touch of colour and merriment to an unforgettable evening. It’s not too late to purchase tickets so buy your tickets here now!

Miss Ghana UK 2015

MGUK Presents The 23rd Edition of Miss Ghana UK 2015, taking place on Saturday 24th October 2015. The night will see finalists from all around the UK showcase their beauty, talent, intelligence, knowledge of Ghana and much more in a bid to be crowned Miss Ghana UK 2015!

This year’s Miss Ghana UK will take place at the Camden Centre in London and special guests from sports, music, film and fashion industries will be making appearances on the night so make sure you’re there! Tickets are on sale now!

 

Date: Saturday 24th October 2015

Venue: Camden Centre, Town Hall, Judd Street, London, WC1H 9JE (Entrance on Euston Road near Kings Cross Station)

Time: 7pm – Late (No admission after 11.30pm)

Tickets:

£20 – Seating Upstairs

£35 – Seating Downstairs

24 HOURS ONLINE BOOKING: http://www.akwaabauk.shoobs.com

Info: 07733 791988 – 07430 850193 – 07779 270727

The story of ‘Akuaba’

In Kojo Antwi’s song ‘Akuaba’ he describes the beauty of a woman he’s seen – the slimness of her nose, the whiteness of her teeth, and then the best feature of all, her figure, which he compares to that of an ‘akuaba’. Now to those of you not familiar with Ghanaian culture, ‘akuaba’ is a fertility doll who’s legend and tradition is still very much a part of Ghanaian culture today.

 

 

69301-FIGUASAN_1466ALegend has it that there once lived a woman called Akua who was unable to conceive. Because Akan society is matrilineal, it is extremely important that Akan women are able to give birth, preferably female children to carry the family line. So women who are barren often find themselves ostracised in their communities. The story goes that Akua visited a fetish priest who carved her a wooden doll to carry on her back. Akua took the doll home and cared for it as she would a real baby. She was laughed at by those in her village, who referred to the doll as Akua’ba’, meaning Akua’s child. Soon Akua fell pregnant and gave birth to a girl and it is said that from then on women adopted the practice of carrying ‘akuaba’ on their backs in order to conceive.

 

Genuine akuaba figures are female, carved to represent the Akan ideal of beauty; a flat disc like head featuring a high oval forehead, slightly flattened in actual practice by moulding a new born infant’s cranial bones on a round stone. The rings on an akuaba’s neck represents rolls of fat, which in Akan culture is a sign of beauty, prosperity and health. Small scars are made below the eyes for medicinal purposes to protect against convulsions and a small delicate mouth is set low on the face. Akuba figures also serve as protection against deformities and even ugliness – when a woman is pregnant she’s warned against looking at anything or anyone unattractive lest it influences the features of her unborn child. Most akuaba have abstracted horizontal arms and a cylindrical torso with simple indications of breasts and navel, with the torso ending in a base rather than legs.

 

Though carrying akuaba on your back to conceive is not as widespread as it was in the past, the practice is still carried out in

A woman carrying 'Akuaba' on her back

A woman carrying ‘Akuaba’ on her back

some part of Ghana today. If  a woman wanted to conceive, she would visit a local shrine accompanied by a elder female family member. A carving would then be commissioned by the local priest, who would then give the doll to the woman, sometimes along with traditional medicine. The woman would then carry the doll on her back tied by cloth the way a real child would, and she would also feed and bathe the doll – by doing this she’s thought to have a better chance of having a beautiful healthy baby. Once the woman conceives and successfully gives birth, the akuaba is often returned to the shrine as a form of offering to the spirits for granting them a child. Families sometimes also keep their akuaba dolls as a memorial if the child died.


Today akuaba figures are mass produced, often used a souvenirs or decorational pieces in the home. However its symbolism is still prevalent, with parents often buying these dolls for their daughter to play with, in hopes that it will influence child-bearing in their adult lives.

 

By Yaa Nyarko (@yaa_fremah)

From Ghana with Love

Portrait of a Ghanaian woman, Eva, in London, 1960s. (James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP)

Portrait of a Ghanaian woman, Eva, in London, 1960s. (James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP)

In 1957, after over a century of colonization, Ghana gained independence from Britain. Just 30 years prior, in 1929, photographer James Barnor was born in the country’s capital Accra — then the Gold Coast colony — and over the course of a career that spanned more than six decades would become one of Ghana’s leading and most well-known photographers. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Barnor created a definitive portfolio of street and studio portraiture depicting societies in transition: images of a burgeoning sub-Saharan African nation moving toward independence, and a European capital city becoming a multicultural metropolis.

Jim Bailey and friends at a Drum party, Chorkor beach, Accra, 1950s. (James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP)

Jim Bailey and friends at a Drum party, Chorkor beach, Accra, 1950s. (James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP)

Ghana in the 1950s was experiencing a radiance of post-colonization as well as its “heyday of Highlife,” a fusion of traditional African rhythms, Latin calypso and jazz influences that would soon spread across Ghana’s borders to West Africa and beyond. Its rising cosmopolitan class in the capital of Accra was breathing energy into a multitude of areas — from fashion to food to art — and was a vivid reflection of the country’s post-independent attitude. Barnor captured all of this energy, playing at once artist, director, photographer and technician, by offering a well-rounded portrait of Ghanian life from many walks of life.

On Oct. 8, Autograph ABP and the gallery Clementine de la Feronniere will release the book “Ever Young” showcasing Barnor’s extensive archive, followed by a corresponding photo exhibition in Paris through Nov. 21.

In 1953, after completing his apprenticeship and running an open-air mobile studio for several years, Barnor opened his own studio called Ever Young, which transformed into one of Accra’s leading photographic studios. Six years later he moved to London in 1959, just in time to witness first-hand the cool Swinging London of the 1960s, and where he would begin to experiment with color photography. It was through this transition that Barnor would become, uniquely perhaps, the only African studio photographer to leave the continent prior to 1960 to study and practice in Europe.

Mike Eghan at Piccadilly Circus, London, 1967. (James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP

Mike Eghan at Piccadilly Circus, London, 1967. (James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP

Whether in Ghana or Britain, Barnor documented cultures in transformation, new identities coming into being — the fragmented experience of modernity and diaspora, the shaping of cosmopolitan societies and selves, and the changing representation of blackness, desire and beauty across time and space. His archive constitutes not only a rare document of the black experience in post-war Britain during the Swinging Sixties, but also provides an important frame of reference, overlapping and stitching together questions of the post-colonial in relation to diasporic perspectives in 20th-century photography.

Article taken from Washington Post. Full article and pictures can be found here

Tribal scars or something else…?

What stories do facial scars tell?

Tribal-marks-Fante-246x300

Like many Ghanaians, my mum has quite a noticeably large scar on her cheek.  Growing up in Ghana this was quite a common sight both in men, women and even children, with the scars ranging in shape and size depending on the tribe one belonged to. I’ve always assumed that these scars were tribal scars or a form of ethnic identification, but I recently discovered that this was only partly true.

 

Like I mentioned before, these scars on the cheek can represent an ethnic identifier, which is the case for the Gonja, Dagomba and Frafra people of northern Ghana. However facial scars can also be found among the Akans, who usually reside in the southern parts of Ghana, and for them, their facial scars tell a whole different story.

 

traditional med

traditional medicine

In the olden days, before the advent of modern medicine, ‘ abibiduro’ or traditional medicine in its English translation, was
used to cure all sorts of illnesses. In fact, abibiduro is still widely used in Ghana today and in some cases are even prescribed by doctors. Back in the day, traditional herbalists made a black powder called ‘botכ’. Botכ was a mixture of different types of traditional medicine grounded into a powder then mixed with charcoal. Botכ worked in the same way as western medicine such as aspirin or codeine, which was used to fight various fevers which particularly affected children. Aspirin and codeine worked as a symptomatic treatment to reduce fevers, and this is exactly what botכ was used for back in the day. Because taking it orally rendered it ineffective as its healing components were destroyed through digestion, a small incision or cut was made in the cheeks of children who suffered from fevers such as malaria, and the botכ was placed in the cut.

 

tribal markAfter healing, a scar remained, thus representing a form of vaccination. These types of practises have obviously been phased out and are rarely used these days due to advances in modern medicine and the accessibility of healthcare even in the remotest parts of Ghana.

Hence these facial scars are most likely to be seen among our parents and grandparents’ generation rather than the generation of today. So next time you see a facial scar on a Ghanaian, don’t be so quick to dismiss it as just a tribal mark!

By Yaa Nyarko (@yaa_fremah)